Chaim Hefer: The Righteous

Bombastic, such terms evermore
One says: Righteous amongst the Nations
I want to understand this term
We Jews call such a good person
Someone who offers us a hiding place, a piece of bread
and stands by us when the threat of death is the greatest.

(translated from the Hebrew by Arno Lustiger,
quoted from his book: Rettungswiderstand –
Über die Judenretter in Europa während der NS-Zeit, Göttingen 2011)

RescueResistance is a term, which was introduced by Arno Lustiger and which is recognized today as referring to all those people in the NS occupied countries and within the German Reich who saved Jews’ lives. These persons are recognized in the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem as “Righteous Amongst the Nations”, who endangered their own lives in order to rescue a Jewish life. The time of the massive persecution and subsequent start of the deportations as of October 1941 is the period when Jews were rescued. Actually, there were already numerous emigration assistance programs after the pogroms in November 1938, which saved thousands, if not tens of thousands Jews from subsequent persecution.

According to a transit visa scheme established by Robert T. Smallbones, the British Consul-General in Frankfurt, it was possible to rescue tens of thousands of people from NS Germany and bring them to Britain. A memorial plaque located on Guiollettstrasse serves as a reminder since 2013 to this diplomat’s courageous commitment.

The British sisters Ida and Louise Cook traveled on their own from London to Arndtstrasse 51, where two other sisters, Gertrud Roesler-Ehrhardt and Pauline Jack, introduced them to people seeking help. Rescue plans were mutually worked out and documents compiled for the British consulate, until the start of World War II made such joint work impossible. The Cook sisters were honored in 1965 in Yad Vashem.

“Many Frankfurt Jews owed their rescue to them” (Rabbi Georg Salzberger) on the support offered by the Frankfurt Quakers in the quickly set up international center located at Hochstrasse 8. Together with their Quaker friends overseas, they organized guarantees and family accommodations, collected money for travel costs and baggage fees and smuggled valuables out of the country. They continued to help people flee even after the war started, and individual Quakers hid persecuted Jews. The British and American Quakers were honored for their commitment with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.

The rescuers and helpers who maintained contact with Jews, despite the prohibition of doing so, could be punished with prison and internment. This could happen without a court hearing, because there was no law, which prohibited “favoritism to Jews”. Doctors were not allowed to treat sick Jews. Helping someone to hide or to escape to a foreign country could lead to punishment. The rescue work included preparing falsified passports, providing housing, obtaining food and working within a network to rescue the persecuted. Approximately 300 persons from Frankfurt (a few from the surrounding towns in Hessen) are identified by name as having been rescued, and a history of their rescue has been documented.

On account of instructions issued by the Hessian “Gauleitung” to the Gestapo Frankfurt the Jewish “mixed marriage partner” was required to appear as part of a “special action” as of October 1942. This measure led to deportation and was something, which was not anticipated by anyone. Many months went by before this perfidious practice became apparent. Hardly any of the family members were able to protect their partner from being deported.

Based on the survivors’ reports Frankfurt citizens did not abandon their Jewish neighbors and friends: 100 elderly female domestic workers did not want to leave their Jewish employers. They were therefore a “thorn in the side” of the “Gauleitung” as early as 1941 and only the threat of punishment forced them to leave their employers. There are several descriptions of secret locations, where prohibited transfers of food took place. Some Frankfurt citizens even dared to send packages to the ghettos in Eastern Europe. Many rescue attempts failed because of the NS’s surveillance and punishment mechanisms, as they followed through with their murderous goals.


[german version]